Fixing the Indycar Schedule
Whilst Indycar's popularity has been on the rise over the past few years, their 2021 schedule left a lot to be desired. Here's how I would fix it!
Indycar has seemingly risen from the ashes of the "Split" and has quickly reclaimed its spot as the top motorsport in the United States. Since Roger Penske's purchase of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and of Indycar itself, the sport as a whole has seen a major uptick in viewership and international interest. This increased more so at the launch of the 2021 season, when seven-time NASCAR Cup Series Champion Jimmie Johnson, three-time V8 Supercars champion Scott McLaughlin, and ten-time Formula One podium sitter, Romain Grosjean all joined as rookies. The 2021 Indianapolis 500 also achieved high viewership, with the event gaining its highest live rating in years. However, even with these astounding headlines, the 2021 schedule was not what many race fans wanted to see. Of course, like many sports, the 2020 pandemic took its toll on the sport. Planned races at Richmond, Circuit of the Americas, Toronto, Portland, Laguna Seca, Long Beach, Barber, and Detroit were all canceled in 2020, with the latter three rejoining the calendar for 2021. Richmond was heavily anticipated by fans, as the short oval had not held an Indycar race since 2009. Whilst 16 rounds, I believe, is a near-perfect amount of races for a single season, the ordering of the schedule and venues is not. To fix this, this ripoff James May from the South shall create the best 2022 Indycar calendar he possibly can! Let me know what you guys think in the comments below! A quick disclaimer before we begin, I will not be including tracks that are not currently raceable or near raceable. So, unfortunately, places like Nazareth will not be on this list. Now, without any further ado, here is my perfect 2022 Indycar Schedule.
Race #1: Barber Motorsports Park
Takuma Sato leads the field through turns 1 and 2 at the start of the 2019 Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. Photo courtesy of Indycar.
Am I biased because this is the only race that I have been to before? Yes. Is it a great venue? Yes. Does it provide great racing? Yes. Should the season opener be at a different track? Probably, but I don't care.
Race #2: Nashville Superspeedway
Helio Castroneves leads the field during Indycar's final race at Nashville in 2008. Photo courtesy of Indycar.
You might be wondering, why didn't I put the street race for Nashville on here? Well, seeing as though it is unproven as a good or bad race to have on the calendar (at the time of writing this in June of 2021), I have chosen to leave it off. However, its bigger left-turning cousin to the East has formerly proven itself as a wonderful event for the Indycar Series. For this calendar, I want a nice combination of Road and street courses, as well as a good mix of ovals. I personally think that Nashville, with the current aero package and chassis, would provide some amazing racing that would really energize the early parts of the season.
Race #3: Streets of St. Pete
Colton Herta leads Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud, and Alexander Rossi through turn 2 at St. Pete in 2021. Photo courtesy of Indycar.
The streets of St. Petersburg, Florida is one of the most underrated street circuit venues in the world, in my opinion. Just like every other street course in the world (excluding Baku), passing is a rare opportunity. However, when someone is ballsy enough to dive up the inside of turn one or duel with another driver through the slower middle sector, it provides for some very exciting racing. Even if the racing isn't the best in the world, the scenery certainly is. With the front straight being right on the shoreline, and the rest of the lap taking place betwixt the beautiful skyscrapers and condominiums that dot the immediate area that surrounds the street circuit, every race produces some excellent views. So far, we have a mix of nearly every circuit type that Indycars can tackle, but I think we're missing just one more to have a perfect first quarter of the season.
Race #4: Richmond or Rockingham
Cars scream down the front stretch in front of a near-sold out crowd at Richmond in 2009. Photo courtesy of Indycar.
Richmond was supposed to return in 2020, however, the pandemic ended that attempted comeback. As seen in the photo above, even during its final season on the Indycar calendar, the race was massively popular. With the fanbase's pleading for more short ovals, I think Richmond would be a great add for the series. Now, you may be wondering why on Earth I suggested Rockingham of all places. Well, two reasons really. For one, it would be amazing for the series to return to the state of North Carolina for the first time since the tragedy of the 1999 IRL race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, where three fans in the grandstands were killed by flying debris. Secondly, it was reported that the North Carolina governor, Roy Cooper, is looking at investing a total of $30 million in racing facilities in the state. These include Charlotte, North Wilkesboro, and Rockingham. The Rock has already been repaired and renovated to a raceable degree. With more funding, however, it could very well return to being one of the best short tracks in the country.
Race #5: Indy GP
Romain Grosjean, after scoring his first Indycar pole, leads the field to green at the 2021 GMR Grand Prix of Indianapolis. Photo from Racing News.
And now, we enter the month of May. At the beginning of making this schedule, I really didn't want to put the Indy GP on here. However, following the 2021 race, I think it has earned the right to stay for at least one more season. The photo of Grosjean's burnt hand grasping on his P2 trophy is one of the most powerful motorsports images since, well, Bahrain 2020. Now, we could see another snore-fest in 2022, or we could see a race like 2019 or 2021, only time will tell.
Race #6: 106th Indianapolis 500
Dan Wheldon poses with his Indy 500 winning No. 98 car from 2011. Photo from Indycar.
The biggest race of the year, and one of the biggest races in the world. There is no Indycar season without the greatest spectacle in racing. There's not much truly to say about the race, besides it's the Indy 500.
Race #7: Mid-Ohio
Colton Herta thunders past spectators on his way to win the second Mid-Ohio race of 2020. Photo courtesy of Indycar.
Something I'm trying to accomplish with this schedule is to limit the amount of long-distance travel the teams have to do during the season. As seen before, the first quarter of the season is primarily in the South-Southeast U.S, the second quarter is in the Midwest, the third quarter is in the West, and the final four races are everywhere. Mid-Ohio is criminally underrated as a road course, being one of the best and most unique in the United States. No matter if it is rain or shine, it always produces entertaining racing with its iconic woodsy backdrop.
Race #8: Detroit (Only one race)
Rossi leads the field into the wet and bumpy torment that is Belle Isle in 2019. Photo from Indycar.
For the first time in over a year, we will see Indycar racing around the streets of Detroit in 2021. With it being such an iconic venue for Indycar, I don't see this race going anywhere anytime soon. Prepare thy spines!
Race #9: Iowa
Will Power flies down the backstretch at Iowa Speedway in 2019. Photo from Indycar.
Why is Iowa, one of the most consistently entertaining tracks annually, not on the 2021 calendar? WHY?! Well, on my 2022 schedule, Iowa is an easy track to add. The racing may not be as good as it was in years past, but that does not make it terrible, not even close. Just bring Iowa back. Please.
Race #10: Laguna Seca
Colton Herta leads the field through lap 1 at Laguna Seca in the 2019 season finale. Photo from Indycar.
Laguna Seca is great. Need I say more?
Race #11: Long Beach
Scott Dixon moves past a lapped car exiting the fountain section in 2019. Photo by Indycar.
Long Beach is great. Need I say more? (I'm sensing a recurring theme here.)
Race #12: Texas
Scott Dixon leads from his fellow Kiwi, Scott McLaughlin, during the first race at Texas Motor Speedway in 2021. Photo from Beyond the Flag.
I don't like Texas Motor Speedway. I don't. Ever since Las Vegas 2011, every time I see an Indycar race at one of these fast cookie-cutter tracks from the late 90s, I'm always on edge. Of course, since that horrible day in October, the racing has not been as close (sans Fontana 2015). Honestly, I don't mind that. I'd much rather watch a decent race that has less passing than a great race with a high chance of someone getting killed. For the sake of having another quick oval race on the docket for 2022, I'm leaving it on here.
Race #13: Road Atlanta
The 2019 Petit Le Mans continues on with the Penske Acuras leading 1-2 at this point. Photo from Autoweek.
Why on Earth has Indycar never visited this hidden Georgia gem? Seriously, why? Passing zones are plentiful, the course is challenging, and the crowds would come in droves. Imagine the current field of drivers fighting their way through the esses, or absolutely sending it at the bottom of the turn 10 hill. Guaranteed legendary race. Make it happen, Captain!
Race #14: Gateway
The drivers get ready for an explosive night at Gateway in 2017. Photo from Indycar.
The last three races. This is, most likely, when the championship will be decided. On the current 2021 calendar, is there truly a better non-Indy oval on the schedule than Gateway? This track has always provided the fans and the drivers with a challenging and constantly exciting race every single year that it is present. Personally, I don't see this track leaving the schedule anytime soon. Take the 2017 championship finale at Gateway for a quick glimpse at what this track can offer when the title is on the line.
Race #15: Milwaukee Mile
Scott Dixon takes the white flag a Milwaukee en route to his 2009 victory. Photo from Indycar.
One of the most iconic ovals in America, and the one with the most Indycar history second to only Indianapolis itself, the Milwaukee Mile deserves to be on the Indycar calendar every single season until the end of time. I think, as the penultimate race of the season, it would be an excellent venue to possibly see a championship won or lost at. Now, what shall the final race to end the 2022 season be?
Race #16: Road America
Pato O'Ward defends from eventual race winner Felix Rosenqvist at Road America in 2020. Photo from Motorsport.com
Imagine a title fight going down to the wire at Road America. Non-title contending races are thrilling at Road America by themselves. However, throw a title fight in the mix and you could have legendary races every single year as two juggernauts put it all on the line for the Indycar championship. The fight between Pato and Felix last year was intense enough as it is, even without either of them competing for a title. I think, with its mix of speed, passing opportunities, complex corners, and beautiful scenery, Road America would be a perfect place to cap off a great season of Indycar racing.
So, what do you think? Is my fantasy schedule amazing, or does it belong in the trash? Let me know in the comments below! As always, thank you all for reading, bumping, and following, and I will see you down the road!